As part of the World Bank’s flagship series of reports Pacific Possible, which focus on the future potential of the Pacific Islands, we reached out to some of the region’s next-generation of leaders for their take on the future of their countries and the major challenges ahead.
Shiva Gounden – born in Navoli, a small village in Fiji, Shiva now works as a Multicultural Youth Coordinator and says anything humanity-related gets him out of bed in the morning.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born to a small poverty stricken village in Fiji, called Navoli. This village has been an integral part of who I am today. My thoughts, actions, perspective of living, all have a piece of Navoli interwoven within it.
In 1999, my parents selflessly moved to Sydney for better education for their four children – me included. I have been fortunate to be able to work and contribute within the community and development sector both in Australia and various parts around the world.
What makes you get up in the morning?
I am actually known for not sleeping much! Sleep is secondary to my passion of being a spark for young people to continue making small changes that lead to a larger consciousness shift for sustainable change. From someone who has grown up with, and is surrounded by people from the Pacific, I am grateful to wake up knowing that my values are grounded in humility, community and love.
It is seriously all about (and this may sound cheesy) humanity.
What is your greatest personal OR professional achievement and why?
If I had to pick something, it was being nominated by well-wishing people for the Australian of the Year Award.
Every program that I’ve been extremely fortunate to be a part of, has given me a sense of satisfaction and gratitude. The cultural resilience of the indigenous, the sense of excitement of refugees and migrants to learn a new skill, the youthful exuberance of young people, the look of innocence and strength of children facing extreme poverty, the collaborative energy of various religions and races and the love of the elderly have always continued to push me to explore new boundaries and strive to become a better me.
What is your favourite quote or saying?
Two quotes have shaped the way I think about my life. I have always tried to implement them in everything I do.
The only place where I feel my true nature shine, the place where I find my zen, my dhyana, is serving who I see as just an extension of my family. This is reflected by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
The second quote is from Muhammad Ali:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”.
I truly believe that I am just fortunate to have the life I have. The stroke of luck could have been completely different if my birth happened in another nation, or my parents moved to another country.
What are the biggest issues in your country right now? How can we fix them?
I am only speaking from my professional field when answering this question. Fiji is consistently and constantly hammered by natural disasters such as cyclones and floods. You just have to see the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston to understand.
Unfortunately, the solutions will be painstakingly slow unless infrastructure in the country is further developed. Fiji, just like many other Pacific Island nations, may not have a lot of time to do this with the rise of seawater.
What does the future look like for Fiji?
Fiji has always been a nation of extreme importance within the Pacific and Oceania. We have some amazing young energy that can take the visions, culture and beauty of our beloved nation into the heart of the world.
One small example is for me the greatest Olympic story in a long time where our Fiji Boys playing Rugby 7s brought home the first ever Fijian Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics. If a small sports team can unify a nation, the future is absolutely extraordinary if our people all unify in music, arts and humanitarian endeavors. I am excited, as I know with hard work and humility Fiji will win hearts all over the globe.
If you could only be remembered for one thing what would it be?
I wish to be remembered for one thing – giving. There is something that I always take with me, that if someone asks me for the last thing I possess, I shall give it without any hesitation.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.